Appeal begins in Glendale officer's demotion case

A series of disciplinary hearings kicked off at Glendale City Hall this week in the case of a police officer who is appealing his demotion from sergeant.

The first in what could be up to 10 hearings regarding the Vahak Mardikian case began Wednesday afternoon. Both sides sought to paint the other as the cause of the discord. The hearings are normally done behind closed doors unless the subject of the discipline requests they be public.

Mardikian was placed on paid administrative leave in February 2011 following an internal affairs investigation. He was demoted to the rank of officer in January of this year, according to a Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit.

Mardikian's attorney, Peter Horton, said during the hearing that police Capt. Mike Rock overstated a conversation he had with a police officer regarding Mardikian, and then used that conversation as the basis for a complaint that led to the internal affairs investigation.

The police officer, Stanley Mar, testified that he never intended to file a report about Mardikian, and that some of the claims made in Rock's complaint were untrue.

“I hate getting people in trouble — that's the biggest thing here,” Mar told commissioners. “It's not in my nature.”

Attorney Edward Zappia, who is representing the Police Department, told Civil Service Commissioners during the hearing that Mardikian lacked “work ethic” and leadership, and was divisive. He claimed detectives who worked under Mardikian avoided the sergeant. They felt pressured, harassed and didn't want to go to work, he said.

Mardikian pressured others to join his federal discrimination suit against the department and “to advance his own interests over those of department while at work,” according to Zappia.

Mar testified that he was approached in 2011 by Robert Parseghian and Mardikian. During a conversation about his reassignment, Mar said one of the men told him that if he didn't do anything, “they are going to start pushing you around.”

That same month, Mar said Mardikian brought up the possibility of filing a grievance regarding the reassignment.

Mardikian, Parseghian and police Officers John Balian, Tigran Topadzhikyan and former Officer Benny Simonzad filed a joint federal lawsuit in 2010 against the city and Police Department alleging years of discrimination, retaliation and harassment because they're Armenian.

Balian, Topadzhikyan and Mardikian also filed a separate state lawsuit in March claiming that racial discrimination and retaliation continued in the Police Department even after they filed their federal case.

Burglary Det. Robert William told commissioners that Mardikian treated him differently after he learned that he was named as a witness in the federal lawsuit. William sent Mardikian an email about not wanting any involvement in the lawsuit, he said.

After the email, William said Mardikian didn't acknowledge him and exhibited resentment toward him.

“The treatment seemed like it got progressively worse,” he said.

In a statement after the hearing Wednesday, Mardikian's attorney said the city's opening remarks were focused on attacking his client's credibility.

“These attacks on Mardikian's credibility and character are baseless and not supported by the [police] department's investigation,” Horton said.

The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 26. 

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